FHS Cheer and Dance once again headed to Disney

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Sasha Widman

For the second year in a row, Franklin High School (FHS) Cheer and Dance is headed to nationals.

On Nov. 4, 2023, at the UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) Competition in Concord, N.C., FHS Cheer and Dance placed second in both events. Due to the placement, on Feb. 7, the FHS Cheer and Dance team, consisting of Coach Lynn Baker and 13 cheerleaders, will travel to Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Fla., to compete at the NHSCC National Cheerleading Competition. 

“The team is doing amazing this season. They have set some high standards and goals and are working hard to achieve as many of them as possible,” said Coach Baker. “Skill-wise, they have exceeded many of their targets and continue to blow us all away with their work ethic … all our teams differ from season to season. The team this year has a lot of heart, determination, and willingness to put in effort to make their dreams a reality.” 

Baker has been involved in the program since 2013 and has led her team through championships and competitive wins since becoming head coach of the program in 2017. In 2022, the FHS Cheer and Dance team became the first Franklin team to compete in the Universal Cheerleaders National Championships.

“Every season and team is different; so many things that we have no control over affect us. This year, we have battled a lot of unexpected things, including sickness, injuries … The team has continued to show perseverance and march forward to achieve some pretty amazing things,” said Baker.

At the NCHSAA Cheerleading Invitational held in Raleigh on Dec. 3, FHS cheerleaders hit “zero” on both of their organized routines. Although contrary to traditional sports scoring procedures, zero is the highest score that a cheer routine may be granted. The team, therefore, accrued zero deductions, equaling clean or perfect routines. Moreover, the team made history for FHS and placed second regionally. 

STRENGTH AND balance are two important components in a cheer and dance routine. The squad cheers on the Franklin High School teams in the Panther Den during basketball season. Photos by Ronnie Vanhook

Regarding the team’s goals this season, Baker explained, “This list could be endless. The team has so many goals. The ultimate goal is to reach the end of the season, look back, and feel no regrets … to feel and know that we all did everything we could to have the most amazing season possible.”

Furthermore, Brianna Quiroz, a junior on the FHS Cheer and Dance team, was named the November 2023 FHS Athlete of the Month.

“It was really exciting because there has never been a cheerleader who has been athlete of the month. I felt accomplished to receive this award,” said Quiroz.

Kaylee Zachary, a junior on the team shared, “What I personally love about cheerleading is how much of a better person I have become. I’m more responsible; I’ve become a leader; I’m not afraid of speaking in front of people; and, I’ve developed just so many life skills I know I’ll need in the future.”

Despite a loss at the state championship at the end of January, Baker assured that the team was still scheduled for the competition at Disney.

“We got our bid and qualified for Nationals at our regional event in November,” she said, adding about the state-level loss, “While it wasn’t the state championship title we dreamed and hoped for, we were proud to walk away as second in the state for our traditional routine and third in the Game Day division. Our team overcame so many obstacles and much adversity to have the opportunity to compete at all this season. I’m so proud of the team and their performances.

“Most importantly, I’m proud of them for the heart they showed, and the love they have to keep fighting for each other and the things that are most important. This team is special and they are true champions. Now we buckle down and get ready to take our best routines ever to the Nationals arena,” she concluded.

Sasha Widman is a junior and an honor student at Franklin High School.